Protests and anger over the security situation in Iraq mounted on Thursday at the site of a massive truck bombing by the Islamic State (IS) group earlier this week in Baghdad that killed scores as the death toll continued to rise and a separate attack north of Baghdad killed dozens more.
The Baghdad attack on Sunday — the deadliest attack in Iraq since the 2003 US-led invasion — has stoked public unrest and spurred Iraqi officials to announce a number of new security measures. However, smaller bombings and attacks have persisted in the days that followed.
Late on Thursday night an attack carried out by multiple suicide bombers and gunmen on a Shiite shrine in Balad, north of Baghdad, killed 26 and wounded 52, according to Iraqi police and hospital officials.
Earlier on Thursday, Iraqi hospital and police officials said their death toll from Sunday’s Baghdad attack now stood at 186, with about 20 people still missing, as more remains were recovered from the rubble.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity as they are not authorized to talk to the media.
However, Iraqi Ministry of Health media office spokesman Ahmad Roudaini said the ministry’s death toll is 292.
The discrepancies in the numbers could not immediately be reconciled. Many of those killed have had to be identified with DNA testing because their bodies were burned beyond recognition.
On Thursday evening, a crowd of angry friends and family members of the victims tried to push into one of the buildings hit in the truck bombing, but civilian volunteers held them back.
The IS suicide bomber had detonated his explosives in Baghdad’s central Karada neighborhood, outside a shopping mall in a street crammed with people preparing for the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr. The area, packed with shops, cafes and restaurants, had swelled overnight with Baghdad residents eager from a respite from the daily fasting during the holy month of Ramadan.
Mustafa Hassan, one of the men gathered at the scene on Thursday, said he had volunteered to help sift through the debris after authorities failed to do so. Hassan, a young man wearing a surgical mask and gloves, held up two plastic bags that he believed contained charred human flesh.
Roudaini said the ministry continues to help transport the remains of the dead to Baghdad’s forensic lab or to the city morgue, but he said the scale of the explosion has overwhelmed the teams who normally respond to such attacks.
“Till now there are maybe still some dead under the building, we do not know,” Roudaini said.
Hours after the bombing, IS said it had targeted Shiites, whom the extremist Sunni group considers as apostates. Many of the Karada victims were Shiites, but many Sunnis and Christians were also among the dead.
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